On the offensive
Head to head London's rudest landlord, Norman Balon, believes bad language gets results, while Gerry Hanson of the Campaign for Courtesy defends the silent majority
Saturday 16 January 1999
"Swearing can achieve certain things for you in life. If I go to the Post Office and there's a queue, I shout and scream until they put more tellers on duty, and sometimes, I swear. It attracts attention, generally hostile, but it makes a point. If you don't swear and instead say, `Oh, I'm terribly sorry, you need more clerks on duty,' they just won't do anything. I achieve results, which is the name of the game. The world doesn't belong to the meek and mild; you have to be on the offensive.
I swear to emphasise a point - "you're a nuisance" is very mild; "you are a bloody nuisance" is stronger; and "you're a fucking nuisance" is stronger still, isn't it? I use the word "fucking" quite a lot, because I don't think anything of it. I don't think it's insulting, I don't use it gratuitously, it's just part of my language. I'm not expressing anger - if I'm really angry, people know because I get very polite and I don't swear. But my swearing is definitely part of my personality, and is accepted as such by everybody, otherwise I wouldn't have a reasonably successful pub.
If you were a customer I'd say things to you that you most probably wouldn't take from anyone else, and what I give out I expect to receive back. But they don't, they wouldn't dare. They can always vote with their feet and choose not to drink here. Those that can't answer back or walk away easily, like my staff, I don't usually swear at.
Those who cringe when they hear swearing are obviously meek types who are put upon their entire life. They'd say that there's no need to swear, you can express yourself in other ways, and I'd say to them, `fuck off!' I can't help it, and I couldn't change now. I'm 72 years old, and no one's taken a pop at me yet."
Norman Balon, who styles himself `London's rudest Landlord', runs The Coach and Horses, Greek Street, Soho
"I'm not shocked by foul language; I'm saddened by it and incensed by it because it offends people and pollutes the social atmosphere. It shows a lack of consideration for people who find swearing offensive. People use foul language in an aggressive and intimidatory manner and, really, when you are swearing, you are being violent. It has a knock-on effect and can lead to other forms of abuse. It indicates and even encourages a lack of consideration for your fellow man - you couldn't care two hoots about what they think. Swearing gives great offence to a lot of decent people, and it's the decent people who are the silent majority. Most people hate it, but are understandably scared to say anything, because in this day and age you don't know what reaction you'll get.
I keep getting told, `Ah, the f-word, everybody uses it, it's only a word.' Well, `vomit' is only a word, but I don't want to be reminded of it all the time. We live in a country that produced Shakespeare, Milton and Dickens and it's sad if we use only four-letter words instead of the glorious language we've inherited - it shows a terrible lack of vocabulary. It takes effort to think of more acceptable adjectives and, often, swearing is just sheer habit. I've no objection to a group of men in their own club using foul language because they know what is acceptable among themselves. But I do object when it's in public, and in front of ladies. Having said that, I know, to my sorrow, that young ladies are now as prone to foul language as boys are. What can we expect when the Prime Minister, at his very first party at Downing Street, invited Noel Gallagher, who has, in the past, called God a `f****** c***'. What sort of message does that send to our youngsters?"
Gerry Hanson is chairman of the Campaign for Courtesy, 6 Norman Avenue, Henley on Thames, RG9 1SG
Interviews by Fiona McClymont
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